Civilization VI – Top 5 Beginner Civs

Civ VI is at long last upon us, and I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who are using this opportunity to give the series a try for the first time. And well, it’s a bit of a tough game to get into, strategy games as a whole aren’t really pick up and play games if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s certainly not the most confusing stategy game out there, at least in my mind (looking at you, Europa Universalis), but newcomers will still have a challenge. I’m not going to go over how to play the game, that would take multiple articles, but I am going to go over some civilizations that first time players may want to try out to learn the game with. You’ll see throughout the article that I give the attributes of both a civilization and its leader. That’s because in Civ VI, some civs have multiple leaders, who provide different bonuses to the player! Now without further ado, let’s get you one more turn-ing.

1 – Rome under Trajan

  • Unique ability: All Roads Lead to Rome – All new cities start with a trading post, and all cities within trade route range of the capital automatically get a road leading to them when settled. Trade units gain bonus gold when passing through a trading post in your cities. Trajan’s ability grants a free building upon settling a city, usually a Monument.
  • Unique unit: Legion – A stronger Swordsman that can build a limited number of roads and forts.
  • Unique building: Baths – An Aqueduct replacement that provides bonus housing and amenities.

Rome is my recommended “starter civ” in Civilization V, and they’re pretty similar in Civ VI. For that reason, they get first place on this list. Rome is an all-around civ, not leaning toward any sort of victory type. When you’re still trying to figure out what all these victory types are, and even what’s going on, that’s pretty nice. The free roads and buildings also take away some of the micro-management of dealing with individual units and cities, allowing you to focus more on the big picture. Finally, the Legion allows you to easily build forts and war roads, letting you make use of the lack of diplomatic penalties in the early game and leaving your builders for more important tasks.


2 – China under Qin Shi Huang:

  • Unique ability: Dynastic Cycles – The Chinese get bonus science and culture from Eureka and Inspiration events, respectively.  Huang’s Builders get an extra charge, and can hasten the building of ancient and classical era wonders.
  • Unique unit: Crouching Tiger Cannon – A high-powered, one-tile ranged unit that doesn’t require a strategic resource to build.
  • Unique infrastructure: Great Wall – No longer a World Wonder, the Great Wall is now a Chinese tile improvement. It provides defence and gold in the early game, and culture and tourism late game.

Eureka and Inspiration moments are a new feature in Civ VI, giving you bonuses to researching technologies and civics, respectively. Settling a coastal city will give you the sailing technology boost, for example. It’s pretty big, around 50% of the tech cost, and raising that up even more is a huge boon for beginners who might get a little behind as they figure out what they’re doing. Greater ease at early wonders is nice as well, although you should be wary when building them. Wonders come at a big cost, there can only be one of each in the world and you can lose the race to it. Not only that, but building wonders you don’t need (or might not get) means you’re not building much-needed infrastructure and units (this is more of a general Civ tip than a China tip). An extra charge on Builders is very significant, as they can only make three improvements (four as Huang) before going bye-bye in Civ VI. Finally, the Great Wall will help protect you from your uncivilized neighbours at the beginning of the game, and give you nice culture and tourism yields in the later game. But like Wonders, be wary of building it. If you put it too close to your city you’ll lose out on tile improvements, and each section of the Wall requires a Builder charge that may be better spent elsewhere.


3 – India under Mahatma Gandhi

  • Unique ability: Dharma – India will get the founding belief of any religion in their empire, not just their own. Gandhi’s ability, Satyagraha, provides India with bonus faith for each civ he’s met and is at peace with. Other civilizations will also suffer a happiness penalty when going to war with Gandhi.
  • Unique unit: Varu – This war elephant weakens the combat strength of any units near to it.
  • Unique infrastructure: Stepwell – A tile improvement providing bonus food and housing to a city. It also provides bonus food when built next to a farm, and bonus faith when built next to a holy site.

Our favourite pacifist with an itchy nuke finger is back in Civilization VI, and he’s making sure everyone plays nice. He gets the founding belief of other religions, normally something only the founder of that religion gets. Making the religious game even stronger, he gets bonus faith from other civilizations as well, so long as they’ve founded a religion and aren’t at war. Not only that, but other civs have an incentive to stay friendly against Gandhi, going to war with India will be met with higher happiness penalties than normal. All of this is great if you want to stay at peace, which is often the case when you’re still figuring things out. If you don’t want to play peacefully, the Varu will scare your opponents straight, giving them a penalty to their combat strength, leaving a bit more room for mistakes, and an easier go at war. Finally, the Stepwell can be used in multiple ways, giving bonus food or faith, and letting you get more people in your city.


4 – Greece under Gorgo

  • Unique ability: Plato’s Republic – Greece gets an extra wildcard policy slot, giving them more policies at any one time. Policy cards replace the policy tree system of Civilization V, and can be swapped in and out at will. Gorgo, one of the two Greek leaders, has an ability similar to the Aztecs in Civ V, getting bonus culture when a unit is defeated.
  • Unique unit: Hoplite – By itself, the Hoplite is the same as the Spearman it replaces. However, adjacent Hoplites will provide the unit with a combat bonus.
  • Unique building: Acropolis – A Theatre District replacement that must be built on a hill. It provides better adjacency bonuses than the Theatre District.

Okay, I know you want to go around warmongering. Heck, during my first game of Civ I thought that domination (controlling all of the world’s capitals) was the “normal” victory type, and the rest were “extra” victories. Greece, and specifically Gorgo, is great beginner war civ. Her ability to get culture from kills means that you can attack your enemies to your heart’s content, and have to worry less about the yields of your cities suffering if you’re not paying attention. Meanwhile, the Hoplite can teach you to use your units in conjunction with one another, getting a combat bonus when you position them well.


5 – Arabia under Saladin

  • Unique ability: The Last Prophet – If Arabia hasn’t founded a religion, they will always get the last available one automatically. Saladin’s ability Righteousness of the Faith, which provides a discount to his faith building cost, and gives it bonus faith, culture, and science output.
  • Unique unit: Mamluk – Arabia’s knight replacement will heal every turn, even if it attacks.
  • Unique building: the Madrasa – A University replacement, the Madrasa not only provides bonus science, and give faith from the Campus district’s adjacency bonus.

Arabia gets large bonuses to faith production, and is guaranteed a religion every game. Religion isn’t necessary in Civilization, but it can certainly be a big help if you get one. You’ll probably be picking one up on lower difficulties anyway, but once you start moving up and the AI gets massive bonuses, it can be a tough feat. Not only does Arabia get bonuses to faith, but to other yields as well. Arabia gets cheaper religious buildings that also provide bonus science, culture, and faith. Religious buildings are things like Temples and Mosques; they’re tied to a certain religion, and can only be built by a city following that religion. With Arabia, these buildings are much stronger. Not only that, but the Madrasa gets more science than the University it replaces, as well as faith. Science is one of the most important yields in the game, and any boost to it can help immensely. Even if you play a pretty passive religious game, you can get some big boosts from Arabia. Finally, the Mamluck heals itself every turn, even if it moves or attacks. This is a pretty high-tier promotion for units in Civ V, and to have it on a unit right out of the gate can get you out of some sticky situations.


In Civilization games, any civ can go for any victory type. However some civs are better at some victories, and some are just downright easier to play. When you’re starting out, I recommend playing one of these easier civs, so you can get the hang of things before moving on to a more difficult or speciality civilization. But hey, you can play however you want. That’s the fun of Civ!

Will you be picking up Civ VI? Who will you play as for game one?

Tell us in the comments below, or chat with me and the rest of the RUL community about it on our public Discord!